I read the piece by Clare Dowdy on design research (News Analysis, DW 19 April) with great interest. The good news is, it seems the design world has finally woken up to the fact that it is worth offering some form of research in-house, to provide a more thorough service.
However, reading between the lines, most research is still extremely reactive and carried out far too late. As a result it is still the cause of much heartache among designers – the fate of their work at the hands of the consumer/ researcher.
So how can this be avoided and how can we move away from the all too cosy focus group? Perhaps talking to consumers first at the start of the process, would be more helpful, well before any design work has been started. This way you stand a much greater chance of getting things right in the first place.
Find out what people think about existing products and brands, how they use them, what is good about them, what are the bad things. Ask them how they would improve products and packaging. Get consumers to be creative and think creatively. Amazingly, it works.
With much more insight, designers are better equipped to devise solutions that work, designs that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but that hit the nail on the head and survive research. Ensuring that designers are properly briefed and involved early in the process is also key. If they are only involved with the brand at a superficial level, how can they be expected to achieve creative excellence?
Get designers to experience brands in different environments and in different atmospheres.
I agree there is a place for traditional design research, but it shouldn’t be used as the deciding factor.
Use it as a guide, in combination with gut feel, common sense and experience.
Nine Yards Brand Consultants
Berkshire SL6 4JP